26 Ways To Spruce Up Your Newsletter

If youíve been publishing for a while, your newsletter content mix may be static. Maybe each issue includes the same tired content: one press release, one "Top Ten Tips" article, and one "News From Headquarters" feature. Or maybe your newsletter is still relatively new, but in the hectic days of launching it you concentrated on building your subscriber list and graphic design, not content. If so, now is the time to take a hard look at your newsletter content.

Maybe your newsletter content has been "same old, same old" because you havenít really thought about the range of information your subscribers might like or new formats for presenting information. If your in-house experts have been the source of information, maybe a guest editor would add spice. Or perhaps presenting information in the form of a case study would enliven dull data or make the theoretical more practical.

What else could you include in your newsletter? Hereís a list of 26 content ideas to get you started.

  1. Editorial. Subscribers welcome columns written by an in-house or industry expert.
  2. Case study. Readers love real-life how-toís that they can apply to their own business. Case studies provide valuable specifics: How much did it cost? What problems did they encounter? What was the ROI?
  3. Photographs. Donít forget that all content doesnít have to be text. Choose photos that are worth a thousand words. If you are using "people" photos, a close-up of a speaker works better than a wide-angle shot of a roomful of attendees.
  4. Product review. Readers will appreciate your informed opinion and unbiased reviews of everything from software to computer equipment to packing materials.
  5. Interview with an expert. Spend 15 minutes talking to an expert and youíll come up with a heap of valuable information and insights you can write up for one or even two newsletter articles.
  6. Profile. Write about a subscriber or a partner in each issue of your newsletter. Profiles enable your subscribers to connect with your company on a personal level.
  7. Behind-the-scenes spotlight. Give your subscribers a behind-the-scenes look at the people responsible for your latest product. Or how about explaining your companyís fulfillment or manufacturing process?
  8. Advice column. Write a "Dear Abby" column, with an expert who solves a subscriberís problem. Use actual questions from subscribers. If necessary, get the column started with a question you are often asked.
  9. Resource list. Let subscribers know about useful websites, white papers, books, or training opportunities.
  10. Tales from the trenches. Publish reader anecdotes about real-life events, such as convincing a skeptical client to sign a contract or staffing a nursing home during a flu epidemic.
  11. "Winnerís circle." Recognize the success of a subscriber, a partner, or someone in your industry or community.
  12. How-toís. Give easy-to-follow instructions for completing a task, such as writing a marketing e-mail, or a project such as purchasing a content management system.
  13. Account-specific information. If your subscribers can "self-serve" at your web site, let them know of any system enhancements: "Did you know you can now track your order online?"
  14. Instant information. Provide easily downloadable information: a white paper, a PowerPoint presentation, a demo.
  15. Calendar of events. Include your speaking engagements, conference presentations, and product demos on your calendar as well as other events of interest to your subscribers.
  16. Conference coverage. Report on noteworthy conference sessions, keynote speakers, and any goodies you received.
  17. Networking. Invite your subscribers to respond to blog posts, attend real or online meetings, or join discussion groups.
  18. Legal update. Let your subscribers know about any changes in laws or regulations that affect them.
  19. Time-sensitive reminders. Tell subscribers about important deadlines for grant applications or proposals, etc.
  20. Survey. Ask subscribers to participate in a survey or poll, then publish and interpret the survey results in the next issue
  21. Coupon. Give subscribers a printable coupon for a product, service, or consulting session.
  22. Industry update. Post an industry-related news feed on your site to provide breaking news.
  23. Trendspotting. Give subscribers a heads-up on new trends that will affect their business or lifestyle.
  24. Giveaway or sweepstake. Offer a premium for responding, subscribing, or purchasing something from you. Give away a book, a special report, a digital camera, or another gift.
  25. Testimonial. Share the praise your customers shower on your company. Not only will you build business, youíll help subscribers understand all the ways they might work with you.
  26. Successful project feature. Write a short summary of a current project that went well. Tell what you accomplished and how you did it.

This list will get you thinking about your newsletter content in a new way. No doubt your newsletter team will come up with other content ideas. But beware! Perhaps novelist John Steinbeck was thinking of ideas for newsletter content when he said: "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen."

(c) E-WRITE, 2004.

Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O'Flahavan are partners in E-WRITE, a training and consulting company that specializes in writing for online readers. Rudick and O'Flahavan are authors of Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents.


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